How to Illustrate Children's Books: An Interview with Wafa Ibrahim

When illustrating children books, illustrators have the ultimate time to look within themselves for their inner and unleash their creative potential to the fullest. Having children as their primary audience can allow the illustrators to use their imagination and play with colours and movements. Yet, there are tips and tricks which illustrators can use to convey the story in the best way possible. As we spoke to Wafa Ibrahim, an artist and kid books’ illustrator, we got to learn a lot of those tips, tricks, and techniques. Below are the highlights of ours and Wafa’s fruitful conversation.



Before you start illustrating, get inspired! Look into different platforms to be inspired by, illustration courses, YouTube, highly praised illustrators, their artwork, and best of all, nature. The more you research and look into different types of illustration styles the better your own guide and knowledge will be to create your own style that distinguishes your illustrations. Once you feel confident in your illustration skills, Wafa’s advice for illustrators wanting to enter the field to start by drawing your own story. Experiment with colours and the way the characters look till you find the ideal style you prefer. Pick a colour scheme that matches the story line and most importantly let your creativity lead you. 



When Wafa works on a children’s story she starts by mapping out the story line and highlights the major events in the story, from the conflict, to the climax, to the resolution. Next step she takes is creating a story board and brainstorming the different colours and movements that correspond to the story line, an example she shares is using a diagonal compassion with vibrant colours such as red and blue to relate to the movement of the story showing that something exciting is happening to the story. Whereas calm scenes will be in a flat compassion with soft colours. Along with the colours, the artwork itself affects the mood as well. Another example would be using rigid artwork when it comes to exciting, action-led scenes, and water illustrations for calmer scenes. Words are limited in children books therefore colours and the softness or sturdiness of the illustration act as a character as expressing different emotions. Children are smarter that you think and will more likely gravitate towards a specific style.



Now, you might wonder if when illustrating for a kid’s book one’s creativity would be restricted, and so did we. That is why when we asked Wafa about her opinion on the matter she made it clear that that illustrating for children your creatively needs to be at its fullest, therefore child-friendly content does not limit your creatively but instead test your creative abilities.


Wafa adds that as an illustrator you can freely illustrate and draw what your creativity leads you to without any restrictions. But if you want to be a children’s book illustrator you have to keep in mind that it’s important to keep your art and Instagram page age-appropriate, so you have the option of not sharing those specific art pieces on your social media platform. “Culture doesn’t allow you to fully express yourself, no nudes and no politics”, Wafa adds. Wafa shares that she practices the human anatomy to learn the movements of the characters she creates but chooses not to share them on her Instagram.



Another layer to being a professional illustrator is communicating and dealing with clients. As you may predict, you might experience clients asking you to change and alter your design, which is normal and can be worked on by you and the editor discussing how the art should look in the final product.


But here comes the red flag that you must be aware of, that is whenever you are being asked to change your design so much so it looks like the artwork of another illustrator and it loses all resemblance of your own art.


Here Wafa advises to go with your gut. This phrase might sound like a cliché, but Wafa goes on to explain that when a client asks you to change your design to the extent that are unable to see your own style in the work, put your foot down and go with the design you think is best suitable for the story. Too many changes will not have a clear flow to the story and will not feel organic, as an artist try to stick with what you see best.


Another point to keep in mind is that as an illustrator that is looking to grow, copying other artist’s work may affect your reputation so try your best to avoid it from the start. And remember, each artist has their own style that is uniquely theirs which they have worked hard to develop and so have you.


Therefore, try to work with clients that appreciate your style and artwork and whom you are comfortable working with. Remember that when working with publishers and clients, make the changes that you feel necessary so that both parties can be in agreement. Always think of the final product and the best way to deliver it.